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A Guide For Tenants

Contents

02- Introduction

04- Whose Responsibility?

06- Ending a Tenancy

07- The Landlord Has Breached the Terms of Conditions

08- Your Landlords Obligations

Introduction

When you rent a home, people sometimes expect you to make a quick decision, or to sign documents before you've had time to think about them.

You can ask for a tenancy to be any time between six months and seven years long. You will need to think about how much rent you can afford to pay: 35% of your take-home pay is the most that many people can afford, but this depends on what your other out goings are and whether you have children.

Some landlords might ask someone to guarantee your rent. If you don't have a guarantor, ask shelter for help.

If you are renting direct from a landlord look for landlords who belong to an accreditation scheme. Your local authority can advise you about accreditation schemes operating in your area. The National Landlords Association (NLA) and the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) run national schemes. If you're in London, there's the London Rental Standard.

If you are renting through a letting agent find out what fees (and costs) you will be charged and when you need to pay them. By law, a breakdown of all fees should be clearly visible to you in the agent's office and on their website. What independent complaints scheme is the agent a member of? Do they offer client money protection? By law, this information should also be clearly visible to you. Are they accredited through a professional body like ARLA, NALS, RICS or UKALA? This means they have the right protection for their clients' money, and safeguards you if they go bust or misuse your funds (such as rent payments and your deposit). Look for the SAFE agent sign too.

Deposit Protection

If the landlord asks for a deposit, check that it will be protected in a government approved scheme. Some schemes hold the money, and some insure it. You may be able to access a bond or guarantee scheme that will help you put the deposit together. If your landlord does not put your deposit into an approved government scheme you may be able to claim up to 3 x the deposit.

WHO'S RESPONSIBILITY?

  • Check who is responsible for bills such as electricity, gas, water and council tax. You or the landlord? Usually the tenant pays for these.

  • Fixtures and fittings. Check you are happy with them, as it is unlikely that you will be able to get them changed once you have moved in.

  • Smoke alarms - and carbon monoxide detectors if you have solid fuel appliances. Check these are provided. If not, your landlord must install them. They could save your life.

  • HMOs are usually properties in which unrelated people share facilities such as the kitchen or bathroom. Large HMOs (more than 2 floors, and more than 4 people) need to be licensed. Check your landlord has done that. In large HMOs, landlords must by law give tenants a statement of the terms on which they live in the property.

  • Make sure you have a written tenancy agreement and read it carefully to understand your rights and responsibilities. The landlord or agent usually provides one but you can request to use a different version. The government has published a model tenancy agreement that can be used.

  • Agree an inventory (or check-in report) with your landlord and, as an extra safeguard, make sure that you take photos. This will make things easier if there is a dispute about the deposit at the end of the tenancy. If you are happy with the inventory, sign it and keep a copy

  • Remember to take meter readings when you move in. This will help make sure you don't pay for the previous tenant's bills

  • A gas safety certificate. The landlord must provide one each year, if there is a gas installation. Deposit paperwork. If you have provided a deposit, the landlord must protect it in a government approved scheme. Make sure you get the official information from the scheme, and that you understand how to get your money back at the end of the tenancy. Keep this information safe as you will need it later.

  • The Energy Performance Certificate. This will affect your energy bills and the landlord must provide one (except for Houses in Multiple Occupation)

ENDING A TENANCY

You can't end a tenancy agreement before the fixed term ends unless either of the following apply: you have a break clause in your tenancy agreement that lets you give notice to end the agreement early, or your landlord agrees to you leaving the tenancy (known as surrendering').

If you leave the tenancy before your tenancy agreement is up, or without giving the landlord notice you can be held liable for unpaid rent. Walking away will not end your agreement. The landlord can continue to charge you rent, so you're likely to build up rent arrears:

If your agreement is fixed term, you can be charged rent until the term ends.

If your agreement is periodic, you can be held liable until your Notice to Quit expires.

If the default tenancy term applies, you can be held liable for the remainder of the six months if you leave early, or until the landlord has replacement tenants in the property.

If you leave your tenancy early, your landlord will probably keep some or all of your deposit to cover any rent you owe or any charges he's had to pay to find new tenants. The landlord will have to go to court to make you pay what you owe. The court will decide whether you should have to pay your landlord the money or not. Talk to an adviser at Housing Rights if your landlord's kept your deposit or is taking you to court.

THE PROPERTY IS UNFIT

If the property you are renting is not fit for habitation, you should contact your local Environmental Health Office immediately and ask them to carry out a fitness inspection. You need to give your landlord a chance to sort out any necessary repairs in the house. Once you have signed a tenancy agreement, it is very difficult to leave the property, even if you feel it is unsuitable.

THE LANDLORD HAS BREACHED THE ENDING A TENANCY TERMS OF CONDITIONS

A tenancy agreement is a legal contract and both you and the landlord must stick to the terms and conditions in it. If your landlord has made a serious breach of the agreement, you may be able to end the contract.

It can be tempting to leave a property if your landlord is interfering with your right to peaceful enjoyment or failing to carry out repairs. If you leave a property before the tenancy term expires you have broken a legal contract and your landlord could sue you for any unpaid rent. If this happens, you will need to be able to prove to a court that you left because the landlord broke his side of the agreement and that you gave him or her an opportunity to fix the situation before deciding to leave. If, for example, you are leaving because the landlord won't carry out repairs you should:

Write to the landlord explaining that he is in breach of the tenancy agreement, clearly showing which clause in the agreement he has broken.

Ask the landlord to sort out the problems in the property or respond to your letter by a specific date.

Write again to your landlord, if the problem is not resolved, explaining that he continues to be in breach of this agreement and that you will have no option but to serve a Notice to Quit if he does not sort the problem by a specific date.

Send your landlord a Notice to Quit, if he continues to ignore the issue, explaining that you are serving Notice because he has continued to breach the tenancy agreement.

Keep copies of every letter you send and every reply you get from the landlord. At court, the judge will review these letters and decide whether or not you gave the landlord reasonable time to sort out the problem. If the judge agrees that the landlord was in breach of the agreement and feels that you gave enough notice of your intention to leave if he didn't sort out the problems, the judge will probably decide that the landlord does not have a case against you.

If the landlord has failed to carry out repairs and this has interfered with your use and enjoyment of the property you may have a claim for damages against the landlord. We would be happy to assess your potential case for you.

YOUR LANDLORDS OBLIGATIONS

keep the rented properties safe and free from health hazards

provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) - this shows the energy performance of the property

make sure all gas and electrical equipment is safely installed and maintained

provide an Energy Performance Certificate for the property

protect your tenant's deposit in a government-approved scheme

check your tenant has the right to rent your property if it's in England

fit and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarm

Follow fire safety regulations for property in a purpose-built block of flats or for houses and property adapted into flats.

Have a written agreement with your agent so it is clear what responsibilities the agent is carrying out on your behalf.

Inform your mortgage company and insurer if you intend to rent to someone else a property you previously lived in as owner. There may be restrictions on your mortgage and you may need to amend your insurance cover.

Use a written tenancy agreement as this will help ensure your tenant knows what they are responsible for, such as who pays utility bills, how long the tenancy is for and arrangements for paying the rent.

Agree an inventory with your tenant at the start of the tenancy. This will make things easier if there is a dispute over the return of the deposit at the end of the tenancy.

Provide contact details to your tenant so that they can get in touch if there are any problems.

Protect your tenant's deposit in one of the three government-authorised Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes. This is a legal requirement if you use an assured shorthold tenancy agreement.